I posted a blog called “A Reader Wants to Know,” in which a teacher asked how he could be evaluated on test scores when the students were in the middle of the second semester. How were the scores affected by the teacher of the previous years? Other teachers have asked how they can be evaluated by scores when so many other factors affect test scores.
A reader commented on this blog with the most pertinent question of all. Why do we (and state legislatures and the U.S. Department of Education and the media) treat these tests and the scores they produce as accurate measures of what students know and can do? The reader, who clearly is a teacher, reminds us that the tests can’t do what everyone assumes they can do. They are subject to statistical error, measurement error, and random error. They are a yardstick that ranges from 30″ to 42″, sometimes more, sometimes less. Yet we treat them as infallible scientific instruments. They are not. He or she wrote:
In a way, I hate these questions. It’s in the same category as “Kid having a bad day on the day of the high stakes test”. They are all searching for explanations of why scores vary so widely, when the real answer is that all of these effects are dwarfed by the innate inaccuracy of the test. Even though these tests provide nice distinct numbers, there is a large random component to them.
To repeat: These tests are inherently inaccurate at the individual level.
Addressing anything but that just provides fodder for distraction for those who want to use them to loot our educational system.
This comment reminds me of something that has long occurred to me. The entire edifice of school-bashing and teacher-bashing relies on these shoddy tests. In the name of “accountability,” schools are being closed, people are being fired. And nothing is done to improve education. The students are shuffled from old school to new school, and in time they will be shuffled yet against from old new school to new new school.
What’s the game here and what does it have to do with improving education?